2016 IM Kona race report

After 30 minutes or so of visualization/music around 8pm, Karel was was out for his last sleep before race day. His pre-race dinner consisted of chicken and rice, which is typical and pretty simple. Oh, and of course something sweet, which was a big bite of a cranberry scone from Lava Java.

Race morning started with an alarm at 4am and Karel got out of bed to start the coffee. Karel didn't show any signs of nervousness, just the typical anxiousness of having to wait a few hours before the race start and the unknowns of race day.

Karel felt extremely prepared for this race as he knew every part of the course. This gave him a lot more confidence in terms of execution compared to last year in Kona. Also, no part of the course scared him, not even the marathon course. He wasn't afraid to "race" it but then again, he really respects the course and its elements, so managing effort and proper execution were critically important.

After digesting his favorite pre-race meal of a buttery croissant slathered with strawberry jam, we left our condo around 5:15am. Karel froze his bottles for special needs and frozen half of his bottles for his bike (3 of them) and then topped those off with fresh water in the morning.
We never advocate freezing bottles for a race as sometimes they do not unfreeze but in Kona, we knew they would unfreeze. 

I had pancakes before we left...because well, it's race day and pancakes are yummy on race day!

Karel never gets overwhelmed with details and he's not one to race with a plan. While details and planning may work for some athletes, Karel enjoys freedom when he races. No plan, no problem.
We made our walk to the back of the King K, which was exciting as we walked right by the finish line. The streets were packed and the sidewall by the ocean was already lined with spectators to watch the race start.

I dropped off Karel's special needs bags after giving him a big hug and a kiss before we parted ways. Karel is not a talker before a race so I let him do his thing so he could get into his zone, with his music pumping from his headphones. I told him where I would be for him to hand off his phone and pump after he got all his stuff situated in the transition area. 

The body marking process took a while and Karel didn't get into transition area until after 6am (it took over 40 minutes to get through all the lines). Karel pumped up his tires, placed his bottles on his bike and in his fuel belt (in bike to run bag) and put his Garmin computer on his bike. 

I texted Karel where I was standing (on the balcony by the King K pool) and he handed off his pump and phone and then he was off to get in his warm-up before lining up in the water at 6:50am for his wave start.
This is the look of "no more pictures...I need to go!"
Karel always wears my dad's favorite hat before a race. I have one too that I wear before my races. 

Although the process in the morning took a while, Karel didn't let it all get to him. He stayed calm and relaxed throughout the morning.

After getting through the crowds along Ali'i drive, I made my way back to the condo to watch the professional and age group swim starts. There were so many people, it was impossible to see anything around the pier so watching from my condo was the best option.
Instead, I watched live footage of the live footage.
A friend of ours, Will, who has worked with Karel for RETUL fits, was in town so he hung out with me all day. It was his first time watching Kona and he took some great pictures (on this blog). 

With this being my first time spectating at IM Kona, I had an idea of where I wanted to spectate to make sure I saw Karel, Justine and Leigh Ann. Watching the pro race was also a must on my spectating to-do list but I made sure to be in a location where it was easy to see the age group athletes and the Trimarnis out on the course. 

I made my way to the middle of Palani once the female age groupers started at 7:10am, so that I could see the professionals, and then age groupers, start the first 8 miles (in town) of the bike. Streaming the footage on my phone (thank goodness for portable chargers!), I could stay up to date with the race. 

Waiting for the athletes!

I had my phone ready to spot Karel as he is easy to see thanks to his super bright green helmet. Yes, we know it doesn't match the orange, and we all know how Karel loves to match, but it makes it really easy to see him coming. He's like a highlighter - can't miss him! 

With just a few miles on the out and back section on Kuakini, Karel was climbing back up Palani to make his way to the Queen K for the next 100+ miles of racing. 

I yelled "great swim!" to Karel as I knew he would be thrilled with his swim time of 1:08. Not knowing what the swim conditions would be like, Karel hoped to be under 1:10 in order to put himself in a better position on the bike. He was thrilled to see 1:08 for an ocean, non-wetsuit swim. This is huge progress for him. He said he never felt anxious in the swim and he lined up to the far left of the buoys to avoid the chaos of the swim. He found he could swim with a bit more clean water and he focused on swimming toward the turn buoy to keep him swimming the shortest distance possible. 

For the next few hours, I went back to my condo to eat and relax. Seeing the long day ahead of me, I didn't want to wear myself out with a workout or staying outside. The location of the Kona Plaza condo is perfect as it is right in the center of the race, which makes it easy to walk to/from on race day. We have stayed at this condo (different units) three times (2011, 2015, 2016) and we plan to stay there again when we come back in 2018 (yep, already planning our trip back here). 

I waited until the professionals made it to the energy lab (from the bike) before heading out to Huahalai street see them on nthe run (about 1/2 mile into the run).

The streets were slowly getting busy with spectators and I was so excited to see the male and female professionals. Although I've raced Kona 4 times, I have never "seen" the race so close before. I was having so much fun spectating without any need/feelings of wanting to race. 

After the professionals came by, I waited for Karel to come in off the bike. I kept refreshing Karel's phone (I used his phone for tracking, my phone for pictures/videos/updates) over and over and finally he came in. I never make assumptions when Karel races so it's hard to ever know if Karel is having a good or bad race. He has been able to successfully put together 6 Ironman races prior to Kona so honestly, I never really worry about Karel as he always seems to put everything together without any physical limiters on race day. 

Karel had 3 bottles of sport nutrition (~240-260 calories) on the bike, each with ~650mg of sodium. He also had 3 of the same bottles in special needs for the return trip home from Hawi. Karel said that the frozen bottles were still cool when he grabbed them, which was very refreshing. 

With no power or HR plan on the bike, Karel just rode by feel. He does have the data from the race but he doesn't look at it while he races. He rode extremely steady and managed his efforts. He said the winds were different from last year in Kona which just shows the unpredictability of this race. 

Karel didn't take any water from the first 2 aid stations (I wish he would have but oh well - what do I know? :) and then he started to grab water for sipping and cooling at every aid station. He took a few bites of a bar and a gel but other than that, he solely relied on liquid calories. 

When he reached Makala, after turning off the Queen K, he started to ease up to get himself ready for the run. Karel went into the run with a lot of confidence as he wasn't afraid of the 26.2 mile run course. He knew it would be hot, hilly and hard and he was mentally and physically ready for it.

Although Karel is one to get in and out of transition as quick as possible (free speed!), he said he took his time in T2 just to make sure he got everything he needed before he started the run. Karel wore a cooling towel around his neck (which he said was a lifesaver) so he wanted to make sure it was securely around his neck before he started the run. Karel said that spending a little extra time (no more than a minute) in T2, instead of bolting out of there, helped him feel relatively "fresh" after leaving the transition area.
He grabbed his lucky Cupcakes with Cal hat (which he has worn in every race since Kona last year), his Fuel belt (3 flasks) and put on his New Balance Zante V2 running shoes (which he absolutely loves - light but cushy). 

I wasn't sure how Karel felt about his 5:07.27 bike time but seeing that he was 178th AG out of the water and then 75th off the bike, I figured he was having a good race. Although his time was 2 minutes slower this year on the bike compared to last year, he felt he rode it a lot better and executed really well. We don't like to compare times year to year as every race is different but in terms of execution, Karel felt he rode the course strong and steady and made sure to deliver himself to the run, without feeling taxed. 

I was so happy to see Karel that I gave him a huge cheer. I didn't ask him any questions or run with him as I know from past races, he needs a few miles to get into his metronome style running, in order to settle into a rhythm. During this time, he doesn't like any distractions (even me!). I respect his racing style so I just gave him a cheer and jumped up and down to show my excitement.

Seeing that I had my road bike, I booked myself up Kuakini (with just my shoes on, not cycling shoes) and then down to Lunapule as I had 1.3 miles to cover before Karel covered 1 mile so that I could cheer for him again on the run. I timed it perfectly as he ran by me just as I turned on to Ali'i drive. 

Respecting the rule of no outside assistance, I rode my bike on the other side of the road (from the runners) and didn't cheer for Karel at all along Ali'i drive. I would ride ahead of him, take a picture or video and then let him go run for a while until I caught back up to him. Even though I was there, I never said one word to him. I knew he knew I was there but he didn't talk to me. He was focused!

I didn't intend to ride my bike along Ali'i drive but seeing that I have never seen Karel race the run in an IM before (aside from him running by me in an Ironman - always in the zone or me seeing him for a quick second like in IMMT), I couldn't help but takes lots of pictures and videos as I was in complete aw of his running mechanics, focus and determination.

Karel stopped at every aid station to take care of himself with ice, water and any other nutrition (coke/red bull - Karel does not like the taste of on course Gatorade). Karel was really moving between the aid stations but his mission was one aid station at a time, take care of himself, then get to the next aid station.

I forgot to mention that throughout the race, Karel consumed 4 Hot Shots (1 before the swim, 1 in T1, 1 in T2 and 1 on run course). He said he wished he would have brought one with him on the bike instead of taking one in T2.

I loved that he was cheering for a few of the female pro's as they ran by and I even heard him talk Czech to one of the Czech  athletes. I later asked him how much brain power that took to switch his mind from English to Czech during the race. Even though Czech is his first language, he said it was hard because he was mentally exhausted. Funny story - Karel ran by the Czech guy and in Czech, the guy told Karel he was now first Czech on the run. Karel was first overall Czech last year in Kona so it was exciting to see Karel regain his title again :)

Karel was running fast and he was passing a lot of people. I wasn't sure what would happen on the Queen K and in the energy lab for the next 16 miles but I stayed confident for Karel as he is a master at putting together a solid Ironman performance.
He is great at digging really deep. 

Karel was a man on a mission and I could tell he was extremely focused. 

When he returned back to Hualalai, I talked to him for the first time and asked him how he was feeling. 

He said "ehhh, I'm ok" but from the way he was running, I knew he was hurting from the effort but his form was absolutely perfect (his normal running style)...and he was moving! 

Karel fueled from his hydration belt (3 flasks) and also used on course nutrition. Although Karel hits an aid station about every 7-7.5 minutes, he wears his hydration belt so that he can drink when he wants to drink. It's like carrying around his own aid station of calories. 

In addition to keeping up with Karel's race, our two first ever IM Kona Trimarni athletes, Justine and Leigh Ann, were having incredible races. It was SO exciting to track them and I was SO relieved to see them on the run.  It's always a great feeling in a triathlon when the feet hit the pavement after swimming and biking. 

Go Justine!

Go Leigh Ann!

After watching Frodeno and Kienle come through for the finish, I went out on my bike to look for Leigh Ann and Justine on Ali'i drive but I never saw them as I was in a time crunch to get back and see Karel finish.

Karel said that the Queen K was typical, long and mentally tough but he persevered. There were two highlights of his run (not including the finish) and they were both in the energy lab.
First off, Peter Reid handed Karel a water, which was exciting. Karel thanked him.
Second, the Clif sponge station was a life saver. Karel said that the Clif sponges were so big and so cold that it was like getting a shower. The station was before/after the turn around so Karel took advantage of all those sponges and cooled himself twice in less than a few minutes. Karel even asked our Clif bar contact if he could take home a sponge for a souvenir as it saved him from being so hot.

Karel grabbed two more flasks from special needs and unlike last year, when he didn't freeze the bottles and they were extremely warm, his bottles this year were still chilled (thus tolerable). 

I stayed in the condo for a short time before making my way to the finish when Karel crossed the 2nd from last timing mat.
I did not want to miss his finish and I wanted to get as close as possible to the finish line to capture this exciting moment.
Karel told me that the last 3 miles were incredibly tough and he didn't think he would make it. He dug super deep but he made sure to continue to take care of himself at every aid station. Although his running pace wasn't slowing down, he was taking just a little extra time at the aid stations to take care of himself which slowed down his overall pace a bit. 

It was a relief to make it to the finish line. And this is unlike any other IM finish line.
This is THE Ironman World Championship finish line. 

You better believe that Karel enjoyed every inch of that finish chute. 

Karel was still running hard to the finish but he made sure to soak it all in as the race was hard but getting to Kona was even more difficult. All that hard work was paying off as that finish line came closer and closer.

An exhausted Karel.

SO proud!

I was so excited to reunite with my exhausted hubby, who was hurting from head to toe. Like usual, Karel doesn't keep track of his running paces/times so he was shocked when I told him that he ran 3:10. Later did we find out that he ended up 25th in his AG (40-44) out of 276  athletes (the biggest AG in Kona) and had the 7th fastest AG run.

Here are Karel's run's splits from his Garmin (he never looked at his watch during the race and had no pace goals for the run. He always runs by feel.):
Total: 3:10.09

Karel returned back to the condo (very slowly) and cleaned himself up, had some soup and rested for a short time before we made our way back to the finish to cheer on Leigh Ann and Justine.

All cleaned up and enjoying another croissant before heading out to cheer on the other athletes.

Out on the race course waiting for Justine and Leigh Ann.

Karel with his PPF family.

As a spectator, I had so much fun. I actually want to keep coming back just to watch this race in action and to continue to experience all the fun, hype and training opportunities on IM Kona week. I never once felt the need to be in the race as I was perfectly satisfied cheering for Karel, Justine and Leigh Ann - who all three had extremely great races with no issues!

In terms of Karel's consistency with IM racing, there's nothing abnormal about his training but his ability to suffer on race day is extraordinary. Karel doesn't obsess about methods of getting faster (diet, gear, training) but instead, he works hard but he also has a lot of patience. He isn't greedy with his fitness and he knows that he is still developing. No diet, gear or specific workouts are helping him excel. He doesn't seek marginal gains but instead, he works extremely hard, values recovery and easy days, fuels smart (always), eats well (croissants included) and trains consistently.

Karel actually put together a little race report so for the first time ever, here is a race report written by Karel.
I'm very happy with this finish. I gave it my all and there was not much more I could have done for a better result.

Sure, I always want a better result but in all honesty, this was my best on that day. Especially considering that it was my 3rd Ironman race since the end of June, I'm happy with how my body held up this summer and how I was able to execute this race, given the conditions.

Swim - A big overall improvement this season for sure. Although I still feel there is a lot of room for more improvements. If I can get my swim time closer to to the front guys, it will set me up for a much better ride as I can then be in the "mix" to be able to "race" it. I will keep working on it.

Bike - It was as expected - pretty packed and frustrating at times but I knew it would be like that so I tried not to waste too much effort on being upset or angry. It just sucked at times when I would pass a large group of guys and work on my own for 20 min and then the same guys would just come back in their" group ride format" and I would be spent from my solo effort.  Because of this, I would often need some time to recuperate before I could ride strong again and try to move up. This happened towards the end where I worked on my own the last part of Queen K and then some 15 guys passed me by the airport. When I stood up to get "legally" on the train, I cramped in my quad (from the previous effort) and needed to settle in and shake it off. Then they were gone.
I'm still happy with the bike execution overall. I stopped at special needs to get my fresh bottles and I was glad I did!

Run - I took my time in T2 to make sure I had all I needed to start my run being calm and "cooler". I refreshed myself with ice cold water on my face and over my head and I also used the cooling towel around my neck. This was the first time I used the towel in a race and it was MONEY! I wet it with ice cold water and wrapped it around my neck and I could keep my race suit zipped up and I felt very comfortable. I never felt the sun hitting my neck! It took me a few seconds to put it on properly and under my suit but it was all worth it!

Once I started the run I quickly found a rhythm that felt good - light and fluent. I never cared about my pace or HR and the only thing I would focus on was form and a fluent stride. I have been doing this in all my races and it works very for me. Even when I hurt, I still try to find the most fluent stride and focus on a metronome style running.

The first part of the run in town went well and was moving through the crowds and picking up other athletes one by one. Palani Hill was not bad and I was able to manage my effort and run the whole thing with one quick stop at the aid station. I never missed an aid station on the run, except the last one on Palani before the finish. I would either stop for a moment to get what I needed or I would walk a few steps. It worked well.

I knew I could settle into a good rhythm again once I hit the Queen K on the downhill.  I was just focusing on one aid station after another aid station. I would take a quick stop or walk to get what I needed, and to reset my form, and then I would run to the next one. 

In the Energy lab, I started to feel very tired but I still tried to find the most "fluent" stride. On the way back into town, I was hurting very bad and it was extremely hard to keep going. On the last hill before the Palani, two guys who I passed before came back and I had to "race" them again. Not that it would matter too much as far as placing, I still didn't want to give up the 2 places. My racing mindset kicked in and I pushed the last mile very hard. I did lose them and picked up a few more guys along the way.

The finish line was awesome!
I really soaked it all in and I was glad I finished my 2nd Ironman World Championship.